Thursday, December 25, 2008

Driving in China (December 25, 2008)

Ok so I'm back in China visiting the future in-laws. I'll explain the whole scoop later, but I need to talk about my driving experience here. So tonight was Christmas day and the fam here decided to take me out to go eat over at Ying Tan, the nearest larger city to my location in Jiang Xi Province. It seems as though I was the only one in the immediate family who knew how to drive so they found me an SUV and gave me the keys like it was nothing.

To start off, I never liked driving SUVs cuz the feel of them is so different from that of a regular, lower to the ground car. The next big issue was that it was a stick. To give you some background history, I lost money in an automobile transaction many years ago because of my disdain and lack of confidence concerning driving a manual transmission. And the last issue was the fact that Chinese drivers are crazy and so are all the pedestrians.

So what did I notice on our little town-to-town adventure?
  1. All drivers use their brights during the evening time so you are constantly blinded by oncoming traffic.
  2. Pedestrians don't give a fuck and will walk right in front of you without a care in the world.
  3. Motorcycles love zooming 3 inches from your side mirrors to pass you knowing full well that I barely see them and could easily make a swift jerk, bumping them straight onto the pavement.
  4. Streets are not paved well so most roads are bumpy as fuck with huge gaps that can't even be categorized as potholes unless a pothole is more like a-large-rectangle-spanning-the-entire-street type of hole.
  5. And as I already knew, nobody obeyed any of the traffic signals or lane appropriations.
I did get us to our destination without stalling, but I was scared shitless throughout most of it. My 99% probability of not getting into an accident while driving in the US suddenly changed into a 70% chance of hitting "something". We had to find a driver to get us back because my halo-ridden evening eyes (Thanks lasiks) were not going to take the risk. It was a crazy experience...something that I have no urge of partaking in again.

In order to get to where I am now, we had to take a train. First time for me, that's for sure. The train we used was opposite from what is in the picture above. I guess the current trains are the 3rd generation ones that are digital and more modern while the 2nd generation (see pic) was something from the 70s or 80s. The train averaged around 75-120mph, and it kept a constant speed throughout most of the trip. There were only a few stops where the train would wait only 1 minute before closing the doors and continuing on again. It was funny, during these 1 minute breaks a boatload of guys would rush the doors to light up a ciggy. You would think that people would just break the law like usual and start smoking it up in the train, but to my surprise the train had its own staff with accompanying police, just like an airplane.

It's cold as all getup where I am. I guess it's normal to have the same temperature inside as it is outside. No central heating at all, so I have cocooned myself into a single room with a heater unit. It's very odd having to wear a jacket to eat a meal or to watch TV on the couch. I guess insulation was not factored into the building specs.

Other than that, I've found out that smaller towns have no DVD-men. I guess I'll have to wait until I get to Shanghai in order to get some pirated flicks.